While looking through the Archivist File and ruffling through folders full of different memorabilia, I came across an interesting packet of papers.
As stated above, this packet would have been sent out to the parents of female students at Northern Michigan College. The Girls’ Organization of Carey Hall, or G.O.O.C.H., was comprised of girls living in Carey hall who created the rules for the dorm and decided the consequences for breaking said rules. While I completely agree that there is a need for rules in dormitories and that it would be comforting for parents to know that their children are living in well structured and disciplined places, to have curfews for only the female students is quite unnecessary.
Now, obviously I can detach myself and my ideals from our current era — where a packet with rules like this would never happen without severe backlash — and I can see that for the era it was made in this would have been normal. It would have been normal for a parent to feel the need to control their daughter who, although legally an adult, by societal standards would have needed to abide by her parents rules until she found a husband to abide by.
Something that I do want to look at, however, is the language used throughout the packet. Written by G.O.O.C.H, I would have assumed that many of the girls would have bonded together and tried to advertise the “Blanket” permission option as the best, in order for the girls to have more freedom. It is surprising to find that much of the wording is meant to shame the female students and their parents.
“Our problem we have taken into consideration is “overnights” after dances…,” is the first example of shaming the female students. G.O.O.C.H. is clearly tattle-taling to the parents of female students, essentially saying “ Hey we noticed that after these dances, some of our female students are participating in “adult activities” and we feel that it may be inappropriate.” Not only is that a total breach of privacy, but it is also a window into the past of how little control women had with making their own choices.
On the second page is where we can see the shaming of the parent. It is easy to see how the choices of permissions were written in order to shame parents into taking more control. When one reads the options on their own, each one sounds okay, but when reading down the row, like many parents would have, one can read the change is tone in the 4th option. The first three options begin their sentences with an authoritarian phrasing of “a girl may not” or “a girl is permitted” which implies power and control. The final option begins with a weaker, lenient tone, not even bothering to mention the girl, but instead flipping the wording to “ If a parent wishes”. This is a subtle change, but it has a major impact on how parents would have read the choices and how they would have made their choice. It becomes a basic question. Which kind of parent would you want to be? Do you want to have power and control, or are you weak?
It is interesting to look back and see how the everyday woman would have been treated and what rules and power struggles she would have faced. It is hard to see that even other women, at that time, would have been so willing to enforce such sexist rules. Today, rules like this would never happen, but it is strange to look back at a not so distant past and see such a different frame of mind.
This post was written by Kyleigh Sapp.